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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Nintendo Switch Reviews N-R

Namco Museum Arcade_Pak
Grade: C-
Publisher: Namco (2018)
Posted: 2019/2/5
Rating: Teen

screenshotI've purchased these Namco Museum compilations more times than I care to admit, but Namco usually tosses in just enough extras to string me along. In this case we get arcade-perfect versions of Splatterhouse and Rolling Thunder 1 & 2. Not too shabby! Unfortunately playing classic arcade games isn't what it used to be.

Upon popping in Arcade Pak you're forced to agree to about 100 pages of legal paperwork. WTF?! It's one thing to be subjected to this garbage for online play, but these games are from the 80's!! Arcade Pak includes arcade-perfect versions of Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Rolling Thunder 1, Rolling Thunder 2, and Splatterhouse. Timeless fun! Less enticing are Tower of Druaga, Tank Force, and Skykid. Galaga '88 appears to be the arcade version Galaga '90 (T16, 1990) which is pretty terrific. There's supposed to be a four-player Pac-Man game but I couldn't get it configured for two players, much less four.

The "museum" element that signified the early PS1 Namco Museums are nowhere to be found. That's kind of lazy. And where are Galaxian, Pole Position, and Ms. Pac-Man?! If Namco is saving them for use a DLC, that's greedy. Cheesy background graphics are used to fill out some of the game screens. Was the original cabinet art unavailable?

I assumed the digital pad on my Pro Controller would be the best way to play these games, but the analog stick works better. One excellent feature that caught me off guard was the vibration. The subtle tremors you feel while chomping down ghosts really add to the experience. Namco went a bit overboard with Galaga 88 however. That game actually tickles my hand!

Arcade high scores are saved but it's annoying how you're constantly prompted to upload your rankings. There's even a confirmation prompt after you say no! In addition to the arcade modes there are 3-minute challenge modes which are a total waste of... well, three minutes. Rounding out the package is an unholy monstrosity called Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus 2P - a game every bit as complicated as its name! Somehow you're controlling two Pac-Men at the same time and it's just a big mess. I scored a few million points but had no idea what I was doing.

Arcade Pak is at its best when you're enjoying the classics at their purest. It's afraid the collection was overshadowed by Namco's greed and sloth. Add in gluttony for Pac-Man and the lust for Ms. Pac-Man (don't judge) and Arcade Pak is becoming the video game version of the seven deadly sins! © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition
Grade: B+
Publisher: Limited Run (2018)
Posted: 2018/11/10
Rating: Teen (blood, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotIn 1993 a Nintendo executive went on record stating that Night Trap would never be released on a Nintendo system. I bet he feels pretty silly right now! This early CD game allowed the player to toggle between cameras positioned around a house, viewing live-action video of seven rooms plus the front of the house. The object was to save girls at a slumber party from shambling creeps in black by activating traps at the right times.

Night Trap starred the late Dana Plato of Diff'rent Strokes fame along with a cast of scantily-clad young ladies. While innovative for its time Night Trap's grainy visuals and limited interaction led many to dismiss the game as a cheap gimmick. In retrospect Night Trap is fairly ingenious. Its well-crafted storyline features scenes that unfold in parallel and you can even follow actors from room to room. Each play-through is a unique experience as you catch glimpses of different clips while gradually picking up bits and pieces of the story.

Activating traps is satisfying as you drop goons through trap doors, suck them into walls, and catapult them off the roof. The dialog is campy and the Night Trap theme song is irresistibly cheesy. Edgy guitar riffs kick in when baddies appear, adding tension and excitement.

This Switch edition of the game is pretty much the same as the Playstation 4 version. The video quality is ten times better than the original Sega CD version yet never rises above VCR quality. There's even static in certain scenes. The main advantage to this 25th Anniversary edition is your ability to view what's happening in every room at the same time via the eight small screens on the bottom. It feels like cheating but frankly it may be hard to go back to clicking on each room just to check for activity. The game is still a challenge and will abruptly end if you don't bag a certain percentage of bad guys. The good news is that you can continue once you reach the 14-minute half-way point.

The new survivor mode is a randomized, rewarding quick reflexes and a keen eye. You also get the behind-the-scenes documentary featuring clueless members of Congress claiming Night Trap advocated violence against women. Extra features include a theatre mode and a playable Scene of the Crime prototype game. Unfortunately you need to complete a perfect game (?!) to unlock those.

I would have preferred more customization options, like the ability to turn off the color codes for example. Still, I played the hell out of this game and loved it. I suppose I should feel ashamed for deriving so much enjoyment out of the most egregiously violent video game of all time. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 83
1 player 

Ninja Saviors: The Return of the Warriors
Grade: B-
Publisher: Arc System Works (2019)
Posted: 2019/11/19
Rating: Teen (blood, fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes)

screenshotThis unexpected physical release is right in my wheelhouse. The original Ninja Warriors (SNES, 1994) was critically acclaimed but had become increasingly hard to acquire over the years. Ninja Saviors offers a spruced-up version with more characters, two-player coop, online rankings, and time challenge modes.

Ninja Saviors delivers the kind of action I love, forging to the right while beating down one enemy clone after the next. Each stage pits you against acrobatic hotties, terminator-style robots, and jump-kicking businessmen in three-piece suits. Of the three selectable characters "Ninja" is the most poorly-named. He's a hulking brute that doesn't even jump. He does however wield nunchucks and deliver a devastating elbow drop. Kunoichi is a traditional female ninja, with enough dexterity to effortlessly flip between enemies. Kamaitachi is a freaky skeletal robot with blade-like arms. There are two unlockable characters as well.

The fighting action is linear and repetitive but I never get tired of smacking down these fools. Despite only three buttons (attack, jump, special) you'll discover a lot of nifty combos and special moves. The ability to hurl motorcycles, barricades, and exploding mines at groups of foes is supremely satisfying. Your special attack obliterates all enemies on the screen, but you'll want to apply it strategically.

The splashing "blood" is green so the level of violence is low. Since all the action takes place on a single plane the two-player coop mayhem can get a little confusing. Most stages are industrial in nature, but the upbeat music and layered scenery will captivate old school junkies. Your "score" is the time to complete each stage, which is odd because this isn't exactly speed-run material.

Keeping with the old-school theme, the box includes a few fun extras like a color manual, cards, and small poster. Ninja Saviors isn't the kind of game you play for hours on end, but when you need to blow off a little steam this is just what the doctor ordered. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Nintendo Switch Sports
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2022)
Posted: 2022/10/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe original Wii Sports (Wii, 2006) was a wildly popular collection of user-friendly, motion-controlled events. Even senior citizens were getting in on the action! By contrast, Nintendo Switch Sports arrived on the scene with a resounding thud. None of its six events are particularly compelling and a few are quite sloppy. Each is played with a motion-sensing Joy-con "half", whether you like it or not!

Volleyball is a two-on-two contest, and you can partner with a CPU player. Most of the action feels like it's on autopilot. It only takes a few simple wrist flicks to execute a perfect setup and spike. When playing split-screen mode with four people the camera was broken to the point where players couldn't even see themselves.

Badminton is even more shallow because it's just one-on-one. You just go back and forth until the opportunity to slam down the birdie presents itself. Tennis is doubles-only, with you controlling both of your players at once. They position themselves automatically so it's really just a matter of timing your swings.

They even screwed up bowling! Whenever I attempted to roll the ball the game would abruptly halt and chide me for not releasing the button. All of my instincts tell me to release it as I throw! Once you get a feel for it, bowling is a pretty solid party game with extra variations spicing things up with humps and moving barriers.

Soccer features a huge ball and an enclosed arena that reminds me of Rocket League (PS4, 2016). Too bad it's only one-on-one. A bonus "shootout mode" lets you use the leg strap to kick, but there's not much to it.

Chambara is like sword-fighting except with paddle sticks. You strategically attack and block at strategic angles until you knock your foe off the elevated platform. The CPU is a pushover but there's something to be said for battling a friend.

I love the bright, pristine venue with its lush atriums and gorgeous skyline views. If I only had a better reason to hang out there! These events have a one-and-done quality with no sense of progression. The fact that Nintendo promptly announced the release of additional download-only events shows this game arrived undercooked. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Okinawa Rush
Grade: B
Publisher: No Gravity Games (2021)
Posted: 2022/6/3
Rating: Teen

screenshotOkinawa Rush is an old-school inspired 2D brawler delivering explosive kung-fu mayhem with stylized anime graphics and pulse-pounding beats. It opens with a cliffside ocean view at sunset, and the use of scanlines only serve to enhance the gorgeous layered scenery. I love all the traditional Japanese landscapes and architecture.

Three playable kung fu masters unleash kick, punch, and rapid-fire combinations against gangs of ninja that materialize out of thin air. The thumping hits, flying bodies, and splashing blood make for a satisfying romp. The ability to knock two heads together is a move not executed so well since Batman Returns (SNES, 1992).

There seems to be an endless list of special moves, not to mention weapons like nunchucks and katanas. Unfortunately, due to the game's awkward button mapping I always end up immediately tossing my weapon away. Every time!! Upon clearing out a crowd it's great fun to collect all the gold trinkets they dropped.

The story is very tongue-in-cheek ("where is the training manual?"), rendered in the style of Ninja Gaiden (NES, 1989). The big green sumo calls to mind the Green Yamo from Bruce Lee (Atari XE, 1984). Arcade mode high scores are recorded with initials.

Okinawa Rush has a few issues. Whether navigating menus or smacking some ninja in the face, the controls are touchy and sometimes it's hard to know what button to hit. Your short life meter can go from full health to nothing in the blink of an eye. If the waves of throwing stars don't do you in, the insta-death spike traps just might.

Despite its old-school attributes Okinawa Rush feels like a breath of fresh air. There's enough side-scrolling chaos here to thrill gamers old and young alike. It's a shame each section has a timer because this is a pretty game you'll want to sit back and savor. Oh well, I guess they don't call it Rush for nothing. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (2020)
Posted: 2024/7/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf you thought the actual Tokyo 2020 Olympics were a bust, wait until you play the video game. I originally tried playing this with my friend Sudz, but as soon as the two player option crossed our minds the game prompted for a mandatory update! And if you want to play with four players you'll need to go online... and stay there! It's a fate worse than death itself!

The best part of Tokyo 2020 is its huge selection of 18 events. There are traditional events like the 100m dash, hammer throw, relay, boxing, long jump, and the 100m freestyle. But there are others you might not expect like baseball, beach volleyball, table tennis, BMX, sport climbing, Rugby, and Judo. You can customize a slate of events or play them individually.

Beginning with the 100 meter relay, it was clear that realism wasn't the goal here. The athletes look like kids, some with freaky features like bushy eyebrows. Tokyo 2020 tries to add spice by incorporating video game "magic" like runners that literally burn up the tracks or tennis players that execute laser-like special shots.

Far too much time is wasted just waiting for each event to begin. There are load screens... introductions... instructions... scoreboard updates... countdowns... When the action finally kicks in the difficulty is surprisingly low, with many events unfolding in slow motion.

Trying to make a game suitable for all ages waters down the competition. For events like baseball, tennis, and beach volleyball, much of the action is semi-automated. The controls make heavy use of the analog sticks, which don't always feel responsive. I hate twirling the right stick during the hammer throw, and when playing table tennis the paddle controls feel delayed. Tennis has blinding blue courts that make it hard to see the ball. Despite these difficulties I found myself breaking world records left and right.

There are a few bright spots. The music and television-style graphics are polished and cheerful. Onscreen prompts are flashed in case you forgot to peek at the instructions before each event. Swimming lets you get into a rhythm and the speed in the BMX bike racing can be exhilarating at times. When you have a poor showing your athlete sports a pained expression on his face, which is a nice touch.

Not being able to play four-player locally however is a travesty. When playing solo you're limited to practice mode. You earn points displayed in the corner of the menu screen but I have no idea what you're supposed do with them. With its goofy graphics and non-committal design, Tokyo 2020 doesn't feel like a proper "official" Olympic treatment. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties: Definitive Edition
Grade: NA
Publisher: Limited Run (2024)
Posted: 2024/6/1
Rating: Mature 17+ (language, nudity, sexual themes, violence)

screenshotThe original Plumbers Don't Wear Ties (3DO, 1994) was a low-budget FMV experiment that pushed the limits of good taste and what even qualifies as a video game. This "definitive edition" is a celebration of its ineptitude, remastering the game while tossing in all kinds of bonuses and behind-the-scenes featurettes. I originally planned to assign a grade to this, but what would be the point?

The object is to get a handsome plumber to hook up with a hot blonde chick. As you witness a nonsensical story unfold you're prompted to make occasional decisions that affect the flow of the narrative. Some may recognize the babe from the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) television program. I'm not ashamed to admit I used to watch that!

Outside of its brief intro however, the game doesn't even use real video. Instead the story is conveyed through a series of still photos set to an audio track. It's hard to stomach, as the grainy images tend to linger on the screen as the story unfolds at a snails' pace. The muffled dialog is often nonsensical and remarkably unfunny. Many of the "action" scenes are accompanied by cheesy vaudeville music.

One particularly infamous scene has the girl's prospective boss demanding her to undress. It's as if the game suddenly becomes an instructional video on sexual harassment! Later on, the game goes from being incredulous to just plain silly, showing the three main characters chasing each other all over Hollywood, pausing to pose with various landmarks like the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Bowl.

When prompted to make a decision, one choice is usually more salacious than the others, and often deceptively so. As the game progresses characters judge you on your choices. There's even a score, although since mine was "-70000", I suspect it's mainly for laughs. The game takes about an hour to complete. 99% of that consists of being bored out of your mind, and the other 1% will have you shouting "what?!?!"

This Definitive edition offers a new intro and the option to view remastered graphics. Bonus materials are unlocked via a brand-new first person shooter mini-game. As the digitized boss from the game chases you around a maze, you can shoot him with plungers while collecting bonuses. The sound of his approaching footsteps is surprisingly unnerving!

Bonus materials include scripts, unused images, and featurette interviews. It's fun to watch the featurettes with Jeanne Basone (still hot by the way) recounting her show business career and how she ended up in the game. She had long forgotten about this little side job until someone directed her to the famous 2011 Angry Video Game Nerd episode. You can tell she's enjoying the notoriety as she's a lot of fun to listen to.

The production values here are commendable, particularly the menus rendered in the style of Windows 95! Limited Run has managed to take an abysmal game and - for better or worse - cement it into gaming history. Plumbers Don't Wear Ties Definitive Edition is worthwhile for those who want to know what a truly bad game really is like, or better yet discover why it exists in the first place. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined
Grade: C-
Publisher: NatsumeAtari (2022)
Posted: 2023/1/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe original Pocky & Rocky (SNES, 1993) was a quirky anime title starring a little girl and raccoon. Moving along meandering paths through villages, forests, and graveyards, the unlikely duo would fling cards at cyclops, skeleton, umbrellas, and ghosts. Twenty years later, you'd expect Pocky & Rocky Reshrined to be a major improvement, but it's really not!

The first stage is practically a carbon copy of the original, retaining the same charming 16-bit graphics and excellent music. The traditional Japanese village is an eyeful, with orange falling leaves that give this game a strong autumn flavor. The rapid-fire shooting is fun, but the lack of strafe makes it frustrating to deal with enemies converging from all sides. When facing bosses don't forget your handy deflection move.

The second stage looks different than I remember as you venture down scenic garden paths. Unfortunately this stage was too long and difficult in the original game, and so it is here. In fact, they sort of doubled down on the difficulty by adding giants trying to grab you and trails of fire that can only be extinguished using your precious bomb supply.

An easy difficulty would have been ideal but there is none. Instead an "extra easy" difficulty unlocks after you've collected a few thousand coins. I hate it though, as it simply gives you infinite lives. Reshrined is either too hard or too easy! The options screen records your high score but fails to take into account the difficulty.

Advanced stages diverge more from the original game. Instead of a graveyard, stage three offers some kind of bland desert world. Additional characters and moves become available as you progress. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is okay but I'd just as well play the original. I wish they had remade Pocky and Rocky 2 instead, a rare tile that goes for a small fortune. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
Grade: C+
Publisher: Ubisoft (2024)
Posted: 2024/5/11
Rating: Teen

screenshotThe original Prince of Persia (Sega CD, 1992) was a cinematic platformer starring an Arabian knight infiltrating trap-laden palaces while sword-fighting with guards. The developer used an innovative technique called rotoscoping to produce fluid, realistic animation. More recent Prince of Persia games have adopted 3D gameplay, but The Lost Crown harkens back to its 2D roots.

You begin this side-scroller in a war-torn environment, with armies battling amongst a flaming fortress. The layered scenery conveys a nice sense of scale, striking a good balance of realism and fantasy. The graphics look good but never achieve a God of War (PS2, 2005) level of visual majesty. Still, exotic music and subtle stereo sounds immerse you in a mysterious, exotic adventure.

The gameplay offers precision platforming, hack-and-slash mayhem, and even a few Tomb Raider (PS1, 1997) style switch puzzles. When fighting you'll need to pepper in dodges and parries to defeat most foes. The most effective move by far is your slide, which not only allows you to avoid an attack but usually puts you in position for a rear counter attack.

When you're not fighting, you're effortlessly scaling the ruins with wall jumps, pole swings, and other techniques. Once you acquire the bow, there are a lot of shoot-and-jump stages that require you to make split-second decisions in mid-air or plummet to your death. Not my idea of a good time, especially with so many spikes all over the place.

The world is one huge maze, but a helpful "guided" mode marks areas of interest on your map. You can also adjust various options (like difficulty) on the fly, in case the bosses start to get to you. Magic trees serve as checkpoints. Dying may force you to retrace some tedious sections but unlocked doors will remain open.

Despite the artistic quality of the ruins, tombs, and palaces, everything begins to look the same after a while. Enemies become so tiresome to defeat, you just start to avoid them. The variety of different items you're supposed to keep track of is a little much: Amulets, quest items, lore items, tree pedals, potions, gear, crystals, and different types of currency. Likewise the number of moves gradually begins to spiral out of control.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown has more depth than your standard Metroidvania title, but I kind of feel like it was designed in a boardroom and everybody's idea had to be included as not to hurt anyone's feelings. The quality shines through with its excellent production values, but the deeper I progressed, the more I felt myself growing weary of it all. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha
Grade: A-
Publisher: NIS America (2020)
Posted: 2020/3/7
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotA shooter-lover's dream, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha packs six sparkling 1990's-era arcade titles into one nifty package. These are the kind of frenetic shooters that gave birth to the "bullet hell" genre - for better or worse. Contained in this collection is Strikers 1945, Strikers 1945 II, Strikers 1945 III, Sol Divide, Dragon Blaze, and Zero Gunner 2.

The Strikers series combines WWII-era planes with shape-changing robots for explosive, rapid-fire mayhem. Although limited to a narrow strip of screen (to maintain their arcade dimensions) these games are so much fun. The challenge rarely feels insurmountable, especially if you use your bombs as a defensive mechanism. Playing all three Striker games in order lets you appreciate their incremental improvements in graphics, firepower, and difficulty. I love the snowy town in the first game, the terracotta rooftops of the second, and the bustling freeways in the third. The bosses in these games are relentless. Just when you think they're defeated, they reemerge from the wreckage assuming a new form.

The next game, Sol Divide, marks an abrupt change of pace. Imagine a D&D beat-em-up where everybody is flying through the air. Armed with projectile and melee attacks, you'll swat away at griffons, wizards, and dragons while floating over feudal lands. This game was originally released for the Playstation and it looks the part with its soft, pixelated appearance. To be honest I'm not a big fan of this one. Fighting skeletons while standing on thin air just isn't very realistic, and I demand realism.

Dragon Blaze reprises the Strikers formula except it takes place in medieval times when there were dragons, magic, airships, and all that cool stuff. Zero Gunner 2 might be considered the "holy grail" of the collection. Originally released for the Dreamcast title in 2002, this fully-3D shooter is pretty amazing. I love the first boss who climbs between two towers and after being destroyed it plunges into the sea below. The problem with Zero Gunner is its awkward controls. You need to hold in a special button to adjust your trajectory because enemies tend to come from every direction.

Most games in this collection support two-player simultaneous action. High scores are recorded locally and you can adjust the number of continues for each. Some games reset your score when you continue, so you may want to think twice before using one. I wish they kept the current high displayed at all times, considering all the unused real estate.

The box contains a bevy of extras including art cards, a mini booklet, and a three-disc (!) soundtrack. It's hard to ask for a better shooter collection than Psikyo Alpha. The good news is, there's also a Bravo edition! What a time to be alive! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo
Grade: A-
Publisher: NIS America (2020)
Posted: 2020/3/7

screenshotIf you liked Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha don't hesitate to pick up the equally-strong Bravo edition, offering six more dazzling shooters from the 1990's. Samurai Aces kicks things off with vertical shooting in the same vein as Strikers 1945, except instead of a WWII motif you get traditional Japanese imagery and music. As a man gliding on mechanical wings you'll rapidly fire at floating shogun warriors, dragons, and boxes with freaky devil faces. I love the look of the game, especially when flying over quaint villages with gorgeous cherry blossom trees. The one frustrating part is how power-ups never float down to the lower part of the screen, practically daring you to move up and grab them.

Tengai (aka Samurai Aces II) feels like a side-scrolling version of the first game with gorgeous parallax scenery that makes better use of the wide-screen format. Samurai Aces III takes the concept a bit further with story-driven gameplay and 3D polygon backgrounds. While it's quite exhilarating to be whisked through castles and up into the clouds, it also tends to be very distracting to the shooting action in the foreground. I also dislike the big pink projectiles and the unnecessary story that interrupts the flow of the game.

The next two games, Gunbird I and II, practically justify the entire collection. Held in high esteem by collectors, I had to import the first one for my Saturn many years ago. These are engaging vertical shooters boasting some of the most appealing anime visuals I've seen. You control magical flying beings fighting mechanical monstrosities over bustling villages and castles teeming with activity. The explosions are fantastic! Gunbarich rounds things out but it feels like a throwaway title. In this strange breakout/pinball hybrid you deflect a ball against bricks using a set of flippers. The controls feel awkward and the constant colorful activity is blinding at times.

All games in Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo are fully configurable and high scores are saved locally. I wish they would display the current high score as you're playing, but hey - you can't have everything. Most games can be played simultaneously with a friend, although that sends the level of onscreen chaos into overdrive.

Bonus items include a tiny art book, six art cards, and a three-CD soundtrack. Psikyo Shooting Collection Bravo is yet another gold mine for shooter aficionados. I'd buy the Charlie edition if I could! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Puyo Puyo Tetris
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2017)
Posted: 2017/5/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotPuyo Puyo Tetris is a good buy for puzzle-minded gamers, offering colorful graphics, simple controls, and a veritable avalanche of variations. There are three game types: Tetris, Puyo Puyo, and Fusion. Tetris might seem old hat until you realize there's probably an entire generation of young gamers who may never have experienced it first-hand. Invented way back in 1984, its block-stacking gameplay remains addictive and timeless. I love how this version lets you press up to instantly cement the next block to the bottom.

Puyo Puyo is also somewhat long in the tooth, dating back to 1991. It involves stacking colored beans... um... blobs... er... what the [expletive] are those things anyway? All I know is, they are squishy. When four puyos gell together they generate an explosion that can trigger chain reactions. Fusion is a combination of Tetris and Puyo Puyo. Sometimes you get bricks and sometimes puyos. Though fuzzy on the rules, I'm always mesmerized by this peculiar hybrid.

Up to four people can play at once, each choosing their own game style. Sega took a minimalist approach with the graphics and I think it paid off. The sharp objects and bright colors look very inviting. A series of tutorials not only explain the basics but go over advanced strategies in detail. The controls feel crisp and the bubbly music has an infectious quality. The voices are repetitive but they add a nice punctuation when you clear puyos ("solved it!").

What sends Puyo Puyo Tetris over the top may be its myriad of variations, too numerous to list. There are party modes that toss random objects into the mix. There's a swap mode that lets you play two games at once. I personally prefer "endless puyo" which lets me compete for a high score (sadly it doesn't save initials). The story mode looks like a throw-away but its rapid-fire CPU challenges had me hooked! It may not push the hardware, but Puyo Puyo Tetris is a likable little title with universal appeal and seemingly endless replay value. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Raging Justice
Grade: D-
Publisher: Team17 (2018)
Posted: 2020/6/10
Rating: Teen

screenshotThe designers of Raging Justice were clearly inspired by classic side-scrolling beat-em-ups like Double Dragon (NES, 1988) and Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). As you venture through dark alleys and seedy bars you'll battle stereotypical street thugs, hookers, and pimps. Weapons like wrenches, bottles, and baseball bats litter the streets. Low on health? Eat a roasted chicken sitting right there on the sidewalk! You can even climb on a tractor and run people over! What's not to like? Well, the lousy character selection for one thing.

You choose between a middle-aged white guy, a militant black woman, and some punk-ass kid. The characters have a freakish claymation quality, calling to mind Clayfighter (SNES, 1993). The animation is choppy and the collision detection could be better. Explosions send people flying the wrong way and attack dogs are constantly chomping on your leg. Every single one of the characters is unlikeable and many are downright grotesque.

I love smacking people with baseball bats as much as the next guy but it happens so often that the thrill wears off quickly. A little restraint would have gone a long way. You have the option of arresting criminals instead of beating them up, but where's the fun in that? Your score is kept per stage, which makes no sense, and having nine continues removes any sense of tension or difficulty. The music is, for lack of a better term, rinky dink. I couldn't get into Raging Justice. Side-scrolling brawlers are generally my thing but I found this one unappealing. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ring Fit Adventure
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2019)
Posted: 2021/7/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was a little reluctant to pick this one up, partly due to the weak title but also Nintendo's penchant for one-and-done gimmick controllers. Ring Fit Adventure is the spiritual successor to Wii Fit (Wii, 2008), but it's about 100 times better.

The flexible ring-shaped controller is about 14 inches across. Gripped from the sides it can be squeezed or stretched. I'm amazed at how durable this thing is. It's versatile too. Together with a leg strap this game can measure just about any exercise you can think of, from squats to overhead presses to various yoga poses.

Ring Fit Adventure goes to great lengths to tailor your difficulty before diving into the habit-forming Ring Adventure mode. A cross between Wii Fit and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, 2017), it incorporates vigorous exercises into an RPG-style adventure with stylized graphics that are pleasing to the eye. The stages are endlessly inventive, always offering a new challenge to hold your interest.

You begin by jogging in place as your avatar prances through wooded paths, shadowy caves, and over elevated catwalks. Using intuitive movements you jump, climb steps, shoot air projectiles, and suck in gold rings. There are fun rollercoaster-like sequences and stages where you row through water rapids.

Occasionally you encounter monsters and must complete a series of strategic exercises to defeat them. This is where you really work up a sweat and are reminded that you are getting a workout. The game shows your calories counting up on the screen and can even measure your pulse!

I like how you can select your exercises and old ones are gradually replaced to keep things fresh. You'll perform moves you couldn't do in most workouts like the thigh squeeze or bow pull. The game rewards you for good form, and a commentator provides constant positive reinforcement ("YES!! YES!! FANTASTIC!!!").

After each round of "attack" exercises you'll play defense by pushing the ring into your abs. It seems like no matter how hard you push the monsters always deal damage. I thought I was going to give myself a damn hernia for crying out loud!

It's hard to find much to complain about but the number of prompts between stages is a bit much. When a game has to inquire if it's asking too many questions, the answer is probably yes. Another minor issue is the leg strap which has a way of slipping down your leg depending on what you're wearing.

Investing a mere half-hour per day will give you a complete full body workout. You know it works because you'll be dripping with sweat. Best of all, I could do my entire daily workout in the small, five-foot space between my game room chair and television. Ring Fit Adventure makes exercising fun. This controller won't be sentenced to life in the hall closet any time soon. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

River City Girls
Grade: A-
Publisher: Wayforward (2019)
Posted: 2020/7/31
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotYou have to love this amazing new side-scrolling brawler inspired by the old classic River City Ransom (NES, 1988). River City Girls might be considered a tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre, kicking ass with its exuberant style, laugh-out-loud humor, and unabashed old-school gameplay. As explained by its hard-rocking intro, two schoolgirls named Kyoko and Misako are out to rescue their kidnapped boyfriends.

The mayhem begins in a school before branching out to a vibrant surrounding city. From the schoolyard to the mall to the downtown district, each area is brimming with activity and eye candy. The old-school pixel art graphics are rendered in a style reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game (Xbox 360, 2010). Enemies include security guards, prancing cheerleaders, wrestlers, and some hilarious Arnold Schwarzenneger clones.

The fighting controls are simplistic at first but new moves are gradually added like wall jumps, foot stomps, volleyball spikes, and even a Chun Li-style rapid kick. Pop-up hints appear often in the early going - a little too often I think. As you undertake little missions around town a lot of backtracking is necessary and I had a hard time figuring out how the different areas were connected. Suffice to say I had to pull up the map a lot.

That said, the old-school fighting never gets old and I love how you can smack around multiple enemies at a time. Weapons like shovels, chains, bats, and yo-yos pack a wallop and unlike other fighters they stick around for a while. You can even carry them between screens! Defeated enemies drop cash that can be used to buy new moves as well as clothes and accessories to pump up your attributes.

The production values shine with rapidfire intermissions, clever dialog, and superb voice acting. The subject matter is a little suggestive at times but the writing is brilliant. A pop soundtrack keeps the energy level high and when those vocals kick in you realize this game is absolutely killing it. Smart, fresh, and fun, River City Girls is the coolest game you'll play on the Switch. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: C+
Publisher: Rainy Frog (2018)
Posted: 2024/3/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAnd the winner for the worst video game name is... Runbow! A reader gave me a heads-up about this last year, and watching the game on YouTube had me mesmerized. On the surface Runbow looks like a primitive side-scroller with simple platforms and solid-colored characters. Every few seconds however a new background color washes over the screen, effectively wiping out any platforms or obstacles of that same color. It's an innovative dynamic that demands quick reflexes and good anticipation.

Despite the ingenious premise, Runbow didn't immediately win me over. The single-player adventure mode is not particularly enjoyable. You're challenged to a series of timed stages, and often required to perform special move combinations like dashes and double jumps. More tedious than fun, it had me referring to the game as "RunBlow".

Then I tried the multiplayer and quickly changed my tune. With four players racing across the screen the mayhem is off the charts! Everybody's frantically jockeying for position, punching each other, falling off the bottom, and using random power-ups. It's off-the-charts fun. Each stage is ideal in length and I like the best-of-ten format. The music and visuals strike a charming 1960's retro-kitsch style.

Power-ups aren't even necessary. The action is crazy enough as-is, and some powers are just cheap. In one contest Brad was about to reach the finish and I somehow switched places with him, allowing me to coast to victory as Brad went berserk. Fortunately you can customize each contest if you don't tolerate this degree of chicanery.

The game has a lot of modes but race mode is the only one I recommend. The arena and king of the hill modes have a Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64, 1999) quality but are way too chaotic for my tastes. My friends however could not get enough and at least one (Brent) purchased this game as soon as he got home that night.

I should also mention that some have complained the controls are not quite as responsive as you'd want in a twitch game like this. Consider the grade a compromise. When playing with friends you can bump it up a letter (at least) but if you're playing solo knock it down a grade (or more). Runbow is only good as a party game, but damn is it a good party game. Late note: I've been advised this game actually supports up to EIGHT players at a time. Think I'm gonna need a bigger game room! © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, MobyGames.com, Nintendo Everything, Nintendo Life, Polygon, Nintendo Difference